‘Paws for Thought’ if you’re thinking about buying a puppy.
That’s the message set out in a timely campaign to raise awareness about what to look out for if you’re considering getting a new pet for Christmas.
Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council has joined the multi-agency appeal to help highlight illegal puppy farming, welfare concerns and serious organised crime in Northern Ireland, ahead of potentially increased demand for puppies at this time of year.
The campaign, supported by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC), Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA), and Trading Standards calls on people to look out for warning flags and take simple steps to ensure high standards when buying a pet.
Welcoming the initiative, the Mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council, Councillor Richard Holmes said: “As a dog owner myself, I know how important it is to look after pets, and I want to encourage people to think carefully before they make any decisions. Do you really know where your dog is coming from and can you be sure that it isn’t stolen or from an illegal breeder?
“If you have decided to get a dog, please consider rehoming an unwanted animal first. If you decide to buy a puppy, make sure it’s from a reputable and licensed breeder who has given the puppy a good start in life.
“Anyone operating a dog breeding establishment in our borough must have obtained a licence from Council. This helps to ensure that dog breeders operate to recognised standards while providing reassurance to the public that their puppy is coming from a trustworthy establishment.
"Councils will continue to work with partner agencies to ensure information is shared with local enforcement bodies and those in Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland, to allow agencies to use their respective powers to tackle the illegal puppy trade.
“Legislation alone will not stop illegal puppy farming. This will take a concerted effort by members of the public and enforcement agencies working together to identify breeders who put financial gain before the welfare needs of their dogs and pups.
“If you have any concerns contact Council’s Environmental Health department and help us protect puppies this Christmas.
“The Paws for Thought campaign sends out a clear message that enforcement bodies will take action to ensure that the welfare of animals is protected, that illegal movement will not be tolerated and that legislative requirements are met.”
Things to look out for when buying a puppy.
* Buy a dog from a known breeder and be cautious when buying a dog that has been advertised in the media, such as on the internet, in a local paper or on a notice board.
* Check the dog’s history by talking to its previous owner and asking to see relevant documents, including the dog’s vaccination certificate.
* If you have any doubts about a dog, you should speak to a vet before agreeing to buy it.
* When buying a puppy, you should only buy a puppy aged at least eight weeks old and you should see the puppy with its mother.
* Make sure the breeder/seller can give you an official pedigree detailing the ancestry of the puppy’s father and mother.
* Make sure the breeder/seller can give you important details about the specific health needs of your puppy, such as which vaccinations it has been given and which ones it is yet to have.
* If the puppy does not come from where it’s bought, ask where it came from and try to get its previous history as buying from an illegal breeder may mean that your new puppy was illegally imported into Northern Ireland.
* Make sure the breeder has prepared the puppy for the world around it – this is called ‘socialisation’ and include activities like gently handling the puppy, introducing it to noise and varieties of human contact and mixing it with other puppies.
* Never buy a dog or a puppy that is delivered to you.
Buying puppies from illegal breeders can have devastating results. Often these puppies die a short time after purchase or end up with infectious diseases such as parvovirus which is expensive to treat and often fatal. They can also suffer behavioural issues relating to fear and anxiety due to poor or no socialisation.
It can be tempting to buy a puppy in these circumstances and often purchasers recognise things are not quite right. It is normal to want to ‘rescue’ a puppy in these cases, but people must remember they are fuelling and supporting what is a particularly lucrative criminal industry.
If you suspect an illegal breeding establishment call Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council’s Environmental Health on 028 2766 0233, or to report a welfare concern call 028 2563 3134.